Vacation Rerun: Quantum Weirdness 102, Equal Time for the Cat

Where’s Waldo?

By the time this post goes winging outward to the vastness of cyberspace,  Cheryl and I will be winging our way home from distant parts unknown. The next new post will return to the subject matter below, so bone up and be ready for brain cramps.

“I don’t like it, and I’m sorry I ever had anything to do with it.”
Erwin Schrödinger  (referring to Quantum Mechanics).

What better follow up to The Equation of Canine Chaos, then the infamous tale of Schrodinger’s Cat?

In Quantum Weirdness 101, we saw that the double-slit experiment revealed the wave-particle duality of sub-atomic quanta, and the fact that these troublesome little bits behave as if they are everywhere they could possibly be at once until an observer looks for them.  While the experimental proof that this happens is rock-solid, the explanation for what causes it is anything but.  For decades after its original discovery in the 1920’s, the predominant interpretation—essentially, in fact, the only one—was the so-called Copenhagen Interpretation.  It essentially states that the universe is just fuzzy on the sub-atomic level, it doesn’t affect our everyday macro-world, and we mortals should not worry about it otherwise.  Critics have said it is really no interpretation, and some facetiously call it the “shut-up-and-calculate” interpretation.   In 1935, Erwin Schrodinger posed perhaps the most famous mind experiment in all of physics to show that theoretically the Copenhagen Interpretation makes no sense.  More recently, physicists have been able to succeed in creating this quantum superposition with larger and larger bits of matter, which tends to shoot empirical holes in Copenhagen.

Anyway, this witty video does a good job of explaining the concept behind Schrodinger’s Cat.  And I’m pretty sure that no cats were harmed in its making—much to the chagrin of my dogs.

(Video Credit: Open University, on You Tube)


  1. I rewatched your double slit experiment video, and think I’ve developed my own theory. I don’t believe that particles can just occur in two different places at the same time, so what if the one electron they fired, instead of making it through the double slit, reacted with the electrons in the air, much like the way heat travels via conduction. As it reacts with all the electrons in the air, the energy is passed from one electron to the next until it hits the screen at a point. This happens repeatedly until you end up with the pattern on screen. It’s just an idea, but I wonder what you think of it! 🙂

    • P.S. Love the schrodinger’s cat video!

    • What other electrons? The whole point is, a concept similar to what you suggest was tested by sending the electrons or photons one at a time. There still was an interference pattern, which only went away when detectors were stationed to observe which slit they went through. Einstein spent most of the last thirty years of his life trying to find deeper explanation of what appeared to be the influence of conscious observation and what he called ” spooky action at a distance.”. He failed. I somewhat favor the many worlds interpretation but remain skeptical as far as any final, definitive explanation is concerned. We my never know for sure.

  2. Oh,and there are a few different video explanations of the infamous cat on YouTube. I picked this one because it was short and sweet. Please note the credit to Open University. Thanks. For visiting and commenting!

  3. Loved the vid! In ruminating about this post and the whole premise that “we can’t be in two places at once” Who says? Why not? I find it fascinating that – even in Quantum physics – there is this over arching need to explain or ‘quantify” a posit using only the emperical knowledge we have right now. In the 1800s it was called ether and Enstein and his ilk spent entire careers pondering and trying to explain and justify it’s behavior. But they – again – were only availed of the tools and knowledge they had at the time. “this thing we don’ understand has to fit in the box we understand now…”

    As trite as this comparison is – I think the movie the Matrix had it pegged. Why can’t the reality in our heads be just as real and valid as the apparent reality we physically experience. Taking that one step further – our reality in our heads does indeed create the reality we experience – so – I posit – we can and do indeed exist in at least two places at once!

  4. Love that the man who was able to explain quantum theory to the masses didn’t ‘like it.’ I love it! I’ve not a mathematical brain, and couldn’t actually be of use in the field, but this to me is a fascinating subject, moreso as I don’t expect an answer in my lifetime. So what? I’ve heard the questions asked in my lifetime, that’s important enough.

  5. Loved the video!! Cool stuff you’ve got on this blog. I enjoyed watching the wave-particle duality video as well….am off to watch the canine video now!

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